I can go for months, even years, without worrying much about cousins, but suddenly cousins are impinging. It was almost two years ago that my brother staged a family reunion and I wrote about it here. There were nieces and nephews on hand but no cousins. But recently a cousin found that posting and got in touch.

Last summer there was a specifically cousins-only reunion that brought together six descendants of common grandparents and their partners. These were first cousins and we’ve all known each other from the beginning.

But this last week, out of the ether, came e-mail from a cousin so distant and here-to-fore unknown that I have had to dig out genealogical charts and search the internet to determine what the relationship is. I believe the person in question is a third cousin twice removed, which is to say that we have a common pair of ancestors who are my grandparents and her great-great grandparents.

I believe this is what they call in the south a “kissing cousin.” But these days, casual acquaintances get a kiss and a hug, so we may need new terminology here and I am not about to make a suggestion!

But when you have a cousin you never heard of before, is this a relationship that matters?

Somehow it does.

The fact is that I knew one of her great-great-grandparents and can tell her stories about her remote ancestor on the basis of first-hand knowledge. Her great-great-grandmother, of whom her father knew nothing, lived in the house where I grew up and told me tales of her childhood in Australia. I wish there were someone out there who knew any of my great-great-grandparents and could tell me such stories. That would take us back to the days of George Washington and George III!

My grandmother told me that she was presented to Queen Victoria. My father said he never heard of it, but why would I make that up? My third cousin once removed can now claim that her great-great-grandmother was presented to Queen Victoria.

But does all this really matter? Why do we care? The fact is that we do care and my guess is that it’s because we are indeed one family, all of us. God is our father (and mother, for that matter); no mere “creator” but one who is intimately related to us and cares for us. And when any two or more of God’s children see themselves to be related and care about each other and take an interest in their stories, I believe God knows and is glad.

The prophet Malachi had it right when he wrote: Have we not all one father? Has not one God created us? Why then are we faithless to one another? (2:10)

If only we could find that common ancestry with Osama ben Laden and all those who feel alienated from the human family and sit down and tell stories, surely the world would be a better place.

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